Jailed for £100k bogus bills scam

Left to right, Michael Skirving, Graeme Storey, Martin Dougherty and James Burns
Left to right, Michael Skirving, Graeme Storey, Martin Dougherty and James Burns

A SHAMED former council chief and two pals have been jailed after conning more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money in a building scam.

Hartlepool man Michael Skirving, who was head of Darlington Borough Council’s asbestos department, got his golfing pals Martin Dougherty and James Burns to submit bogus invoices to the council for work that was not carried out.

Today they are all starting prison sentences along with Graeme Storey who told lies to police during the investigation.

The four men, all from Hartlepool, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.

A jury convicted Skirving, 50, Dougherty, 45, and Burns, 44, of conspiring to defraud the council last month after a trial.

Dougherty’s business MBN Roofing and Builders was paid £75,000 after submitting 15 bogus invoices for work on jobs in Hartlepool, Billingham and Middlesbrough.

Skirving emailed Dougherty with instructions of what to put on the paperwork.

Burns submitted invoices through his James Print and Design firm totalling £33,000 for the supply of a cherrypicker in connection with work in Owton Manor, Hartlepool.

But the prosecution said it was not needed or provided to the extent that Burns claimed.

Skirving later put forward Storey as a worker to try to prove the work was done.

He was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice on May 21 last year.

Since being found guilty, Skirving also admitted a further fraud after forging an asbestos removal licence when he carried out work for Redcar and Cleveland Council in June last year.

The court heard that Skirving, Dougherty and Burns were all previously hard working and well thought of in the community.

Lawyers for Dougherty said he was “deeply ashamed” at getting involved.

Barristers for Storey said the scam was not his idea and he just went along with it.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Armstrong, said: “It is impossible, I’m afraid, to avoid an immediate custodial sentence in respect of that sort of money and that sort of fraud.

“This was systematic fraud, getting money out of the local authority, so these are serious offences.”

Skirving, of Grange Road, was jailed for 18 months, Dougherty, of Westbrooke Avenue, was given a 12-month prison sentence.

Burns, of Wansbeck Gardens, was sentenced to six months in jail, and Storey, of Hart Lane, got four months prison.

A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council said: “This case illustrates that dishonesty and fraud will not be tolerated by the council.

“We have systems in place to ensure that dealings of this kind will be detected and dealt with appropriately and we will not hesitate to involve the police and take court action where necessary.

“The council has taken appropriate measures to recover the monies lost.”